Sunday, June 26, 2011

Karla Wozniak

On Monday evening I visited Karla Wozniak's studio in Sunset Park to have a chat and do some drawings. It was perfect timing too, since she had not only just packed up a bunch of her paintings to send out west for a show in San Francisco, but is also currently packing up her studio altogether to move to Tennessee. She just got hired as a painting professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Cheers to that! It was a splendid visit with Karla, talking to her about her work, her move ahead, her time in NYC, and her travels.

Karla: I try not to take pictures while driving, but I have been known to do that.

Wozniak's paintings are based, in part, on photos she has taken while on road trips to various places across the country. As soon as I stepped inside her studio loads of questions came to mind. I love it when new paintings evoke that kind of inquisitive feeling. Did you take the photos yourself? Are these all trips you have been on? Is each one a specific place or are they composites of different places? Yes, she takes the photos. Yes, she gets to go on all these fab drives. And each painting is either one specific view or a handful of views of one trip, combined into a single painting. It is like Wozniak is sharing the experience of being in a moving car, passing by all the sights that have caught her eye; giving the viewer a blurred, playful sense of the memories of her travels. The views of the road weave in and out of perspective by way of her use of light and space. Adding to the excitement of her work is the fact that Wozniak is no stickler: she lets the paintings speak to her as she is making them.  For instance, a highly abstracted flat form can lead smoothly to a cleanly painted road sign that juts out from on top of it.

 The road signs in the paintings act as not only a marker for where she has been, but also as a commentary on the ugliness of capitalism when juxtaposed with the beautiful landscapes that make up our United States.
While there, being a pencil in the studio kind of gal herself, Karla drew me drawing her paintings.

Referring to the unfinished mountainous drawing on the wall behind her:

Karla: This one is of Shasta, you are driving down highway 5 and then you see this huge mountain appear out of nowhere.

I felt lucky to be able to catch Karla before she made it on the road to Tennessee. I look forward to seeing her next group of paintings. BBQ signage perhaps? I really really dig her work. It gives me a lot of what I want from a painting, fantastically varied use of paint and pencil, luscious and vibrant abstracted fields of color, and a little day dreaming about where she was when taking the photos. In some ways, Karla is sticking to a long-standing tradition in painting: she went there, she saw something interesting in the place, and she painted it. Hey, if you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair, and go see her show at Gregory Lind Gallery opening June 29th-August 12th. Also check out the rest of her amazing art here:


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